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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Battle of the Bulge... a story

With over 800,000 men committed and over 19,000 killed, the Battle of the Bulge became the single biggest and bloodiest battle that American forces experienced in World War II.

The Germans were trying to penetrate the allies defenses creating a "bulge" in the line. They were able to sabotage equipment, but what they wanted to do was to surround the allies and overcome them.

Our fathers and grandfathers were on this field, historically sixty years is nothing, it wasn't something he ever spoke of, but my father was one of the lucky ones to make in through the battle mentally unscathed. I would have to listen quietly while he talked to other veterans, many my uncles, about the war. It wasn't something he spoke about, but I must have got him at a weak moment as he did recount the following:

It was cold in December and the men fought in the snow. Many got frostbite, the numbing actually caused a piece of flesh to die. Like the bruising of an apple, the frostbite would eat into bigger areas of flesh if not stopped. Dad told me about men who sliced off pieces of fingers and toes to stop the spread.

After about six weeks the battle ended. When Sergeant Richard Bauer, my dad, was summoned by some friends. There was someone he just had to meet.
In the prisoner of war tent was a German also named Richard Bauer. The two shared the same birthday and their ID numbers were off by one digit.

I interrupted the story with "you talked to him?". I suppose my childish response was due to the idea the POW must be an enemy. My dad seemed amused and said "sure I talked to him."
The man spoke of the end of the war as though relieved. He wanted peace, he was tired of fighting. At 21, both men had a life they would rather be living.

The two talked, the irony of their similarities not lost on either of them. The story impacted me over the years. Its too easy to clump people into "us" and "them". The value of facebook, youtube, and the Internet is we can see people, real people and learn who they are.
Its governments who wage war, the regular folks just want to go to work, have some supper and play with their kids.

How do we hasten the day when we look at people for who they are and not what we are told they are?


Mary Ricksen said...

You mean, they are real people just like you and me. And your father was man enough to realize that.
Sad, war is so sad. Who thinks up this stuff anyways. Why can't we stop it?

Jen Childers said...


We all agree war is hell,yet there's always an excuse for another one.

Don't know why we can't just play nice.
take care,